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Natural Resources
March 27, 2009

Killing of Threatened Caribou Shows Blatant Disregard for Species at Risk

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador today confirmed that hunters have killed five boreal woodland caribou from the threatened Joir River herd in Labrador and that provincial conservation officers will enforce the laws that protect the animals.

A large hunting party of Quebec Innu from the Romain, St. Augustine and Natasquan bands are in the area, accompanied by women, children and elders. Provincial conservation officers are patrolling the area south of Happy Valley-Goose Bay collecting information, evidence and obtaining video footage.

"Hunting from this herd is senseless and unnecessary when hunting is permitted of the George River caribou herd, which has healthy numbers," said the Honourable Kathy Dunderdale, Minister of Natural Resources and Minister Responsible for the Forestry and Agrifoods Agency. "The woodland caribou in the Joir River area number only around 100 animals and are protected under both the Provincial Endangered Species Act and the Federal Species at Risk Act. If this killing continues, we run the risk of losing the entire herd."

On Friday, conservation officers confirmed the presence of 45 Quebec Innu hunters from the Romain, St. Augustine and Natasquan bands on snowmobiles in the area where the threatened caribou are located.

"It is our information that wide-track, high-powered snowmobiles, GPS and high-powered rifles are being used to chase down and kill caribou. Hunters are firing the high-powered rifles at the animals from the snowmobiles, which is foolhardy," the minister said. "With that many hunters in a small area, they are a danger to themselves and to our officers."

Given the number of people in the area, it is not safe for provincial conservation officers to engage the hunters on the ground at this time.

The Provincial Government recognizes caribou hunting is an integral part of the traditional Innu life, but does not support the hunting of a threatened species or disregard for the laws established by government to protect threatened caribou herds. Government supports hunting on non-protected, George River caribou in open zones and there are healthy caribou herds in Labrador and zones that are open to hunting.

"The Quebec Innu are fully aware of the regulations and why they are required, and this was reiterated directly to the hunting party by our officers," said Minister Dunderdale. "Our requests that they respect provincial and federal laws designed to conserve these threatened animals are being ignored. We have now brought our concerns over the threat to our conservation efforts and officers to the Quebec government."

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Media contact:
Tracy Barron
Director of Communications
Department of Natural Resources
709-729-5282, 690-8241

2009 03 27                                                    5:20 p.m.

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